HAYS — Wrestlers from Cherryvale and Erie rounded out their season at the KSHSAA Class 321A Boys Wrestling State Championships in Hays over the weekend. While no area athletes finished on the podium, there was still success to be found.
The Chargers brought four wrestlers to the state tournament, all four finishing the tournament on Friday with a meet record of 0-2.
“The tournament was a great learning experience for our boys this year,” Cherryvale head coach Casey Lickteig said. “None of them going in had ever been to the state tournament and were learning as they went.”
The first round of action saw freshmen Trenton Grimm (106 pounds) and Cooper Smith (215 pounds) and senior Ethan Starrett (285 pounds) surrender a fall, while freshman Reyce Booe (132 pounds) gave up a 10-3 decision.
With entire communities in person to support the larger teams like Hoxie, Sabetha and Rossville, the Chargers were a bit overwhelmed with the fanfare.
“The first round we had entire towns of wrestling fans cheering for us to lose,” Lickteig said. “The loud, suffocating nature of the moment got to all four and they didn’t wrestle up to their abilities.”
Though they still did not find a win in the next round, Lickteig was proud of how his team responded to the adversity inside Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“After that, we each bounced back in the next matches and lost some tight matches to great competitors,” Lickteig said. “It showed them the prep work that is needed to keep your focus through those moments.”
Grimm gave up another fall, finishing the season with a record of 18-17.
Booe took another decision loss, falling in a tight 2-1 battle to finish the year at 18-12.
Smith fell behind quickly in his next match, giving up a fall in the second period for a final record of 23-12.
“For my three freshmen, I’m extremely proud of them and have high expectations of them next year in the state tournament,” Lickteig said.
Starrett finished his senior campaign with a record of 27-17 after suffering a second fall on Friday afternoon.
“I am proud of the efforts in his senior campaign,” Lickteig said. “Prior to this year he hadn’t had the seasons he wanted, so he dedicated himself in the room to get to the state tournament. He wrestled great all year, only losing to state placers and ranked kids. He has a lot to be proud of with how he ended his career.”
The Red Devils brought five state qualifiers from the regional tournament a week prior. Though there were some wins to be had, Erie left town without hardware.
“If I could go back and change some things I would, but the way they wrestled wouldn’t have been one of them,” Erie head coach Will Weber said.
The opening round was rough for the Erie grapplers, as all five suffered defeats.
“Coming out in the first round, I think we were a little sluggish on our feet. Some of them were a little starstruck I believe,” Weber said. “But they all started picking it up on the backside when they realized it was just another tournament.”
Sophomore Seth Welch followed a first round loss with a pair of falls to advance to the 126-pound consolation quarterfinals. Welch’s blood round match would see him bounced from the event via a 7-5 decision.
“I can’t quite put my thumb on what happened in that first match, but he wrestled really well,” Weber said. “After that he came out and wrestled like he usually does.”
Welch nearly turned his opponent for nearfall as time expired, but was instead handed a loss, ending his season with a mark of 23-7.
Cayce Welch was the only other wrestler to advance to Saturday, but he also came up short on the backside of the 175-pound bracket.
“He kinda tore a bit of a ligament in his knee on Friday, but he decided to continue wrestling through it,” Weber said. “He just couldn’t get the last points he needed in that last match.”
Cayce Welch finished his senior campaign with a record of 28-9.
Sophomore Aiden Wilson surrendered a first period fall at 113 pounds, followed by a 7-0 decision to finish the year at 24-12.
“In his first time there, I thought he wrestled really well. He wrestled two tough, ranked kids,” Weber said.
At 138 pounds, junior Landen Kmiec took the mat for a single match before medical defaulting out of the tournament. Kmiec finished the year with a record of 23-5.
“He was winning his first match, then got caught in something and suffered a concussion,” Weber said.
Senior Brandon Volz lost a 6-3 decision in the opening round, before getting caught on his back in a tightly-contested second round bout.
“I don’t think the nerves got to him, I think he was just wrestling more seasoned heavyweights,” Weber said.
The Red Devils finished with nine team points, good for a 40th place finish out of the 71 teams present.
“We’re right there with everything, we just need the underclassmen to start believing in our system,” Weber said. “When that happens, they will wrestle a lot harder for us and we can bring more guys to the show.”
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